The season opens on September 20 with a revival of George Balanchine’s Jewels. From October 8, the company dance a triple bill of Wayne McGregor’s Limen, Frederick Ashton’s Marguerite and Armand – with Sergei Polunin making his debut as Armand – and Kenneth MacMillan’s Requiem. The Sleeping Beauty returns from October 24, followed by MacMillan’s Manon from November 3. Liam Scarlett’s Asphodel Meadows (pictured) returns from November 19, as part of a triple bill with Ashton’s Enigma Variations and MacMillan’s Gloria. A long Christmas run of The Nutcracker opens on December 3. Mason wants to cast new Princes and Sugar Plums across the 24 performances, with more debuts promised for the revival of MacMillan’s Romeo and Juliet, opening on January 10.
The Woman in MacMillan’s Song of the Earth was one of Mason’s own great roles. It returns on February 1, in a double bill with Ashton’s The Dream. During this month, an exhibition at the Royal Opera House will look at her 54-year career. Christopher Wheeldon’s Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland returns for eight performances from March 17.
The first new works of the season, ballets by Scarlett and McGregor, have their premieres on April 18, as part of a triple bill with Wheeldon’s Polyphonia. Ashton’s lovely La Fille mal gardée returns on April 20. From May 21, the company dance a double bill of Balanchine’s Ballo della Regina with Johan Kobborg’s production of La Sylphide.
In one of the surprises of the season, The Prince of the Pagodas returns on June 2. MacMillan’s last full-length ballet has not been performed since 1996. The company marks its 80th birthday from June 30 with a programme of Ashton’s Birthday Offering, with its seven ballerina roles, his A Month in the Country and Bronislava Nijinska’s magnificent Les Noces.
Mason refused a retrospective gala for her retirement, preferring to focus on the future. Her final programme as director will be Metamorphosis: Titian 2012, a collaboration between the company and the National Gallery as part of the London 2012 Cultural Olympiad. Seven choreographers will join forces to create three new works in response to Titian’s paintings Diana and Actaeon, The Death of Actaeon and Diana and Callisto. Alastair Marriott will work with Christopher Wheeldon on the first ballet, Kim Brandstrup with Wayne McGregor on the second, with Liam Scarlett, Will Tuckett and Jonathan Watkins collaborating on the third. New music will be commissioned from British composers, with designs by leading contemporary artists.
Performances by other companies have been announced for the Linbury Studio Theatre. In September, Arthur Pita will choreograph The Metamorphosis, based on Kafka’s novella, with The Royal Ballet’s Edward Watson as the salesman transformed into a giant insect. In October, as part of Dance Umbrella, dancer Cédric Andrieux performs a solo created for him by Jérome Bel.
For Christmas, Aletta Collins will stage Kurt Weill’s Magical Night, created as a ballet pantomime but lost for almost 80 years after its premiere in 1922. Ballet Black have their annual Linbury season in February 2012. In March, there will be a programme of new dance commissions from Freddie Opoku-Addaie, Sarah Dowling and Laïla Diallo. In Classic Cut, also in March, the Shobana Jeyasingh Dance Company dance a revised version of Configurations and a new work co-commissioned by ROH2.
Picture: Marianela Nuñez and Rupert Pennefather in Asphodel Meadows. Photograph: Frederika Davies, courtesy of the Royal Opera House.